carrot cake was his favorite

carrot cake | the merry gourmet

Oh, hello!

I didn’t intend to take such a lengthy break (a whole month!) from blogging. It just happened. I’ve sat down at my desk to write numerous times, and I’ve even amassed a small collection of first paragraphs. None of these were fit to publish, so they languish in a DropBox folder on my computer. If I were able to gather the many paragraphs I have written and then immediately deleted into one volume, I would have an impressive anthology of crap to show you.

This break would have been wonderful had I actually planned it. Instead, I have suffered through three-and-a-half weeks of guilt over not posting. I’m fixing that today.

My life has been occupied with work and family, but in a mostly good way. I’m also finding time to knit in the evenings and on weekends. I completed a shawl recently, one I hope to be able to wear when it gets chilly or during our summer vacation up north.  I’m trying to complete this wrap in the next few weeks. I’m so happy to be knitting, but I do realize that my evening and weekend knitting has partially replaced some previously carved-out writing time. I’m trying to find a balance.

I am also reading a lot. My life would be empty and sad without books. I’ve got three going right now: Voyager (Outlander #3) by Diana Gabaldon; The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman; and Three Many Cooks: One Mom, Two Daughters: Their Shared Stories of Food, Faith, & Family by Pam Anderson, Maggy Keet, and Sharon Damelio. I’m listening to the first one on audiobook, and despite what my 11-year old daughter says, listening to a book does count as reading. I’m reading the second one on my Kindle, and the third one is a hardback book I received free from the publisher.

carrot cake | the merry gourmet

I’m over halfway through the Three Many Cooks book, and I’m really enjoying it, maybe even more so than I expected (though I knew it would be great, given who the authors are). The book is a memoir by the three women behind the Three Many Cooks food blog, and it’s written in their three voices, each one alternating chapters, with a recipe or two at the end of each chapter. I find that I’m bookmarking nearly all of the recipes to try later. The stories that Pam, Maggy, and Sharon tell are engaging, and as I’m reading, it feels as if I’m sitting down with them in their kitchen, sharing stories over cups of coffee. It’s a good feeling, and it’s a good book.

Despite the numerous savory recipes I’ve earmarked in Three Many Cooks, I knew I wanted to bake the carrot cake that Sharon shares on page 43 of the book. My father loved sweets, but of all desserts available to him, carrot cake was his favorite. I can’t recall a specific instance where I learned this. It’s just something I’ve always known, like the color of his eyes or the way he smelled.

I never baked a carrot cake for my dad, despite knowing that it was his favorite. Looking back, I think I thought I wasn’t capable of making a carrot cake that would please him, that it would not be good enough. I’m sure I also thought that I had plenty of time to make one. A whole lifetime, his and mine. Turns out, I was wrong, on both counts.

This was a great carrot cake. My dad would have loved it.

carrot cake | the merry gourmet

Yield: Serves 12-16.

Carrot Cake

I slightly adapted this recipe from Sharon Damelio's recipe for Perfect Carrot Cake in Three Many Cooks: One Mom, Two Daughters: Their Shared Stories of Food, Faith & Family.

I omitted the cranberries and pecans in favor of a smoother textured cake, as I'm not a fan of nuts in cakes (or brownies or fudge, for that matter). When making the frosting, Sharon recommends leaving the cream cheese and butter on the counter for at least 4 hours, and I agree. I tweaked the frosting a bit, for our tastes.


For the cake:
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1-1/4 cup vegetable oil

For the frosting:
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, at room temperature
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pinch kosher salt
2-1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, measured and then sifted


Make the Cake:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees, with the oven rack in the middle position. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line with a parchment round, then butter and flour the pans, shaking out any excess flour.

In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, chop the carrots very finely to about the consistency of large couscous. Transfer carrots to a medium bowl and rinse the food processor bowl (you'll need it again).

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Whisk to blend thoroughly.

In the food processor fitted with the steel blade, mix the eggs and sugars until thoroughly combined. With the food processor running, slowly add the vegetable oil in a steady stream until well blended. Using a silicone spatula, scrape the egg mixture into the dry ingredients and stir gently to combine. Add the carrots and stir.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the pans cool on a rack to room temperature before inverting them to remove the cakes. Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting.

Make the frosting:

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add the vanilla and salt. Gradually add the sifted confectioner's sugar, beating until the frosting is light and airy (2-3 minutes).

Assemble the cake:

Put a small dollop of icing in the center of a cake plate. Place one cake on the plate. Using an offset metal spatula, evenly spread about 1 cup of the frosting over the top of the first cake. Top with remaining cake layer. Spread the entire cake with the remaining frosting and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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44 Responses to “making changes & a recipe: chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream frosting”

  1. Jenny — March 11, 2012 @ 5:09 pm

    This cake looks magnificent! I don’t have such will power…but I do make lots of things with chocolate because my body doesn’t tolerate – hence I won’t eat it. Now the lemon cake …. that’s another story.

  2. Cheryl Arkison — March 11, 2012 @ 6:31 pm

    Good for you! I’m impressed. I would not have that will power at all. At the moment I’m trying to cut back on the sweets in anticipation of the post-baby world. Never too soon to start eating better. Or at least, eat less cookies.

  3. Maris (In Good Taste) — March 11, 2012 @ 8:19 pm

    I could never maintain a diet that didn’t include some treats! Are you following Weight Watchers again? I love how exercising makes you feel even w/o weight loss.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — March 11th, 2012 @ 8:42 pm

      Yes, I’m doing the online Weight Watchers. I’m a believer in their program.

  4. Winnie — March 11, 2012 @ 8:35 pm

    Beautiful cake, MJ. And bravo for making changes 🙂

  5. Jean (Lemons and Anchovies) — March 11, 2012 @ 8:37 pm

    My regular fitness routine has sadly been replaced by more time in the kitchen. It’s something I’ve vowed to do something about this year. My saving grace is that after one slice, the rest of the cake goes to the office to be enjoyed by everyone else. This cake is beautiful–I would have a hard time resisting.

  6. Liren — March 12, 2012 @ 12:03 am

    Change is hard, but change is good, and I’m rooting for you! This cake is not only lovely, but great motivation to keep going 🙂

  7. Purabi Naha — March 12, 2012 @ 5:00 am

    Wow, I loved this cake recipe. Lovely photographs as well!

  8. Rachel @ Not Rachael Ray — March 12, 2012 @ 8:28 am

    I need to get on the ball with working out, BEFORE I get pregnant again. You are a strong woman, if I had a bowl of candy on my desk (or a cake like this!!!) I would NOT be able to resist.

  9. Jane M — March 12, 2012 @ 8:52 am

    WOW I sound like you, only now my kids are ages (nearly) 21 and 23 – so I have no excuses for packing on the pounds. I so enjoy baking and being in the kitchen, but I’ve seem to have lost my will power. My husband unfortunately has morphed into a TYPE 1 diabetic and he eats sooooo carefully! I say to myself OVER and OVER why don’t I eat just like he does! And then I don’t!

  10. Little B — March 12, 2012 @ 9:23 am

    Looks yummy!

  11. Beth (OMG! Yummy) — March 12, 2012 @ 9:57 am

    Isn’t willpower wonderful? The cake looks exactly like the kind of chocolate cake that I adore. Thank goodness for my athletic, high metabolism 14 yr old daughter who can finish off most of the sweets in the house before I get a chance to break down :-). I am on a “have to wear my bathing suit in 3 weeks” diet myself. Let’s do this together!

  12. XL @ 6 Bittersweets — March 12, 2012 @ 1:36 pm

    This looks delicious and is very similar to my own favorite chocolate cake recipe. I’ll have to try adding some bittersweet chocolate to it :). I do believe you’ve forgotten the sugar in the ingredients list for the cake though.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — March 12th, 2012 @ 1:53 pm

      Oops! You’re right. I fixed it. Thanks!

  13. hannah — March 12, 2012 @ 2:19 pm

    Wow! This looks delicious! And good for you, I too have troubles resisting everything I bake! You need to constantly consider your priorities- someone else will enjoy the slice of cake more than you will!


  14. Heather | Farmgirl Gourmet — March 12, 2012 @ 2:43 pm

    Beautiful!! I love chocolate cake with white icing.

  15. Cassie — March 12, 2012 @ 3:50 pm

    Gorgeous cake, once again. And what a great story, thanks so much for sharing!

  16. Paula — March 12, 2012 @ 6:11 pm

    Had to elaborate on my comment on Google+. I think it is wonderful that you are putting temptation in front of you and then choosing to ignore it. You are right, it is very empowering to walk away and not look back.

    Best wishes to you on this journey to feel and look the way you are most comfortable.

  17. Jesica@ Pencil Kitchen — March 12, 2012 @ 9:38 pm

    I think its always the toughest for us women to lose weight. Especially one that is inevitable such as pregnancy. I know I will not resist the temptation of a cake. Or a chocolate bar. This cake look so dark and moist, it’d probably ruin my diet

  18. Sara{OneTribeGourmet} — March 13, 2012 @ 9:26 pm

    Bravo on making positive changes in your life and the cake is swoon worthy! I wish I could bake..someday!

  19. Kelsey — March 14, 2012 @ 2:27 pm

    This cake looks wonderful! I’m trying to find a go-to chocolate cake recipe, so I’ll give this one a try. I have to say bravo in your efforts to start living healthier. I can personally say that Weight Watchers and running both work for me. I’m abroad in Europe right now so I’m indulging which frequently in unhealthy treats, but I’ve started running again and I can already feel the difference. Running shaped my legs in a way I didn’t even know possible! I can still remember the moment when I knew running was my saving exercise: I put on a pair of shorts for the first time in a few months and they simply fell off me!

  20. Kiran @ — March 15, 2012 @ 11:43 am

    Bravo for everything positive coming your way. Hugs.

    Can I face-plant into this gorgeous cake? For reals 😀

  21. Brian @ A Thought For Food — March 18, 2012 @ 9:07 pm

    As you know, I made this cake last week for my MILs birthday and it was a huge hit! Still working on a hunk of it, but it’s just oh so good! Thanks for saving me… I didn’t know what I was going to bake and your recipe came out of nowhere. Mwah!

  22. Katie — March 21, 2012 @ 4:32 pm

    I’m salivating as I type this comment to you… this chocolate cake looks moist and beautiful in all its glory. Good luck with the revamping your life style… I too am the worlds largest procrastinator at exercising and at times over indulging!

  23. Melissa — March 24, 2012 @ 9:31 pm

    I love how dark your cake is, almost black. I tried making chocolate cake before and it’s only light brown and not as dark. Any suggestions?

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — March 24th, 2012 @ 11:58 pm

      Melissa, I think the dark color comes from the combination of cocoa powder PLUS the melted chocolate. The combo seems to be the trick for me.

  24. Kat — April 4, 2012 @ 6:10 am

    It’s really hard to resist when you have everything you need at home to make a cake! I love baking and i will try this recipe soon, thanks for the post!

  25. Lucy — April 10, 2012 @ 12:21 pm

    Your cake is so lovely. I never bother with trying to make it look pretty, just slap the frosting on and call it good. But I love your extra touch of garnish around the bottom. I’m inspired! I’ve been practicing the Blood Sugar Solution for the last month and have lost 12 lbs. I highly recommend it.

  26. Saskia — May 5, 2012 @ 8:02 pm

    This turned out great! Thank you so much for the wonderful recipe! xx

  27. N. Hornberger — May 24, 2012 @ 12:06 am

    4 1/2 sticks of butter??? Are you nuts???

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — May 24th, 2012 @ 7:05 am

      This is buttercream, dear, not a salad. 🙂

  28. sweets lover — January 24, 2013 @ 8:09 pm

    what is 4 1/2 sticks of butter? can I get the measurements? love this cake made it tonight but couldn’t do the frosting because i’m not too sure how much 41/2 sticks of butter was cause my butter her in Canada are huge and i’m pretty sure i’d prob die if I put that much in lol

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — January 24th, 2013 @ 9:15 pm

      One stick of butter is 4 ounces, so 4-1/2 sticks is 18 ounces. Good luck!

  29. Felicia Nomiko — February 27, 2013 @ 11:59 am

    Hot water chocolate is the best all around chocolate cake recipe I’ve ever made. This is a rich, moist, forgiving cake where most chocolate cakes are tricky to get cooked properly without overcooking them and making them dry. And nothing is better than good old fashioned butter cream frosting, though mine is sans salt. ^_^

  30. ayadigi — April 15, 2013 @ 4:00 am

    I am planning to make a cake in the next couple days that will be shaped like a snake. I looked up the method for this and figured out how to use bundt pans to create the shape. I’d like to use this recipe bc I just had this cake when my sister made it for her son’s birthday party and it was delicious! Would you be able to advise me if one recipe would work for one bundt pan or otherwise?? Thank you!

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — April 17th, 2013 @ 5:11 pm

      I’ve not tried it in a bundt pan, but you could certainly give it a go! If you do, please report back with how it worked.

  31. Susana — April 18, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

    Hi, I used your recipe and baked my first ever chocholate cake for me family and friends…it was so good and looked so beautiful, moist, rich and dark…everyone LOVED it! It was gone on no time 🙂 I did make it with chocholate buttercream but plan on trying the vanilla buttercream soon!
    I’m going to treasure your recipe and pass it on! I’m all the way in Grantham, Lincolnshire, UK but I was born in Aveiro, Portugal so your recipe will be passed on to my family and friends there too!
    Thanks very much!
    And well done on having will power, it was the thing that worked for me too!
    Compliments, Susana Moita.

  32. Susana — April 18, 2013 @ 1:26 pm

    Apologies for the typos
    my family*
    in no time*

  33. ayadigi — January 30, 2014 @ 3:56 pm

    Okay, the bundt pan worked great though I have since forgotten how long I cooked it for! Now I’m planning to attempt cupcakes with this recipe! Whaddaya say?!!?

  34. Maria — July 19, 2015 @ 8:28 pm

    Hi, I absolutely love this cake and so do all the friends and family members that I’ve made it for, especially my 4 year old grandson. Over the past couple years I have made it no less than 50 times…..YES…50 times, yet without fail my layers always sink leaving a big dip in the middle . Consequently, it looks strange once it’s cut and there is also excess frosting in the center.  I don’t overmix and I use the slowest speed on my KitchenAid. I bake for 35 minutes, never longer. What can I do to stop this from happening? Thanks. 

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — July 20th, 2015 @ 3:09 pm

      I’m so glad you love the cake, Maria! It’s a great celebration cake.

      There are several potential reasons for the cake layers sinking in the middle. Your oven may be running hot or cold, or maybe you have a hot or cold spot in the oven (rather than a uniform temperature throughout). Or it could be something else. Here’s a helpful blog post I found: 5 Ways to Keep Your Cakes From Sinking.

      Ultimately, you can slice off the top of the uneven layer to make it even, if you like. This is what I sometimes do, if the sinking is minimal.

  35. Matthew — December 29, 2015 @ 9:23 am

    My 4 year old nephew asked me to bring him a chocolate cake with ‘nilla icing when I went back home for Christmas. This recipe was perfect for it. 

    Like others, both layers sank slightly, but I suspect if I’d been stronger willed at not opening the oven to check them when cooking it would have helped.

    The buttercream was such a light consistency that when icing it on a turntable I was able to do a nice spiral with a palette knife.

    Thank you for the recipe. I’ll be doing this again in the new year, probably with a chocolate or orange buttercream.

    The pictures of the cake in production are here:

  36. Rebecca — April 14, 2017 @ 1:32 pm

    This is the best chocolate cake recipe I have ever used! I used to use Ina Garten’s Beatty’s Chocolate Cake but have not since trying this. Absolutely wonderful!

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